Pack the Perfect Summer Picnic

Time to bring out the picnic basket.

By Zester Daily Staff

The first long weekend of summer is upon us. Time to plan a backyard barbecue or, better yet, a picnic lunch to carry to some sunny park, newly opened beach or quiet spot along the wooded trail. But what to pack?

Zester Daily contributors have the perfect menu for a simple but sophisticated picnic lunch, including dessert and a wine selection.

MAIN COURSE: Fried Chicken. Nothing beats cold fried chicken for a picnic. Make this a day or so ahead and let it hang out in the fridge until you're ready to pack your picnic meal.

Fried Chicken

Serves 4 to 6. Adapted from "The Welcome Table."

Ingredients

2½ to 3-pound frying chicken, cut into pieces

vegetable oil for frying

½ cup flour

¼ cup white cornmeal

1½ tablespoons Bell's poultry seasoning

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Wash the chicken thoroughly and pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

2. Heat the oil to 350 F in a heavy cast iron skillet.

3. Place the remaining ingredients in a brown paper bag and shake to mix well. Then, add the chicken pieces a few at a time and shake to ensure that each piece is well coated with the mix.

4. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet and fry, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes turning as the chicken browns. Check for doneness by pricking the chicken with a fork. The juices should run clear with no trace of blood.

5. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Contributing: Jessica B. Harris

Related: How to cook up a feast on a yacht.

SIDE DISH: Potato Salad. There are a million variations of the classic potato salad. Most of us think the one our mom made is the only authentic recipe, but if you feel like trying your hand at something a little more cosmopolitan this summer, check out this Danish-inspired version.

New Potato Salad With Tarragon Yogurt Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the potatoes:

2 pounds small new summer potatoes

2 cups for shelled peas

2 spring onions

2 cups flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

For the cream:

2 cups plain yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly grounded pepper

Directions

1. Scrub the potatoes and boil with the skin on in salted water. They are done when they are soft but still firm.

2. Cool and cut each into four wedges. Place in a big bowl with enough room to mix the salad.

3. Chop the spring onion medium fine, chop the parsley and set aside.

4. Mix the cream ingredients together.

5. 30 minutes before serving mix the potatoes with the peas, spring onion, herbs and the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Contributing: Trina Hahnemann

Related: Turn restaurant leftovers into second-day homemade gems.

WINE: Portugal's vinho verde. Portugal's vinho verde (literally, "green wine") is that country's water-white, prickly-tart picnic favorite, best served stone-cold. At less than 10 percent alcohol, it can be knocked back with abandon. It seems destined for outdoor dining, especially on decks or beaches by the sea.

Contributing: Elin McCoy

Related: What to pack for a picnic in Paris.

DESSERT: Cookies. Every meal needs a sweet ending. Pies and cupcakes can be tough to pack for a picnic meal, so make a batch of sinfully chocolate cookies for your meal.

Double Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from "What Cooks in Suburbia" (1961) by Lila Perl

Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg, well beaten

1 1-ounce square unsweetened chocolate, melted

1¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Cream butter and sugar.

2. Add egg and beat well.

3. Stir in the melted chocolate which has cooled.

4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and sift into the chocolate mixture.

5. Blend well and add the coffee mixture, the vanilla extract, nuts, and chocolate chips.

6. Drop batter by rounded teaspoonfuls about 1½ inches apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake on shelf in upper third of the oven at 375 F for 12 minutes or until cookies are firm in the center.

Author's note: I use a small ice cream scoop to form cookies which then bake into an attractive round mound.

Contributing: Barbara Haber

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